10 Questions to ask your Real Estate Agent
Do you ever drive down the interstate and wonder, “How did they get a driver’s license”? I ask the same question in my profession. I run up against agents that seem like they just fell off the turnip truck. I shudder to think what kind of job they must (not) be doing for their clients. Many times throughout my career, I have done the job of the other agent, simply out of necessity to get to the closing table and make sure it went smoothly for my client. In order to have a better chance at making sure you have an agent that is knowledgeable and is not going to cave under pressure or get you into legal issues, here are 10 questions to ask:
Anyone who goes through the classes and passes the tests can be a real estate agent, but let’s be honest, it’s not that hard to get a license. Once you get a license, you are a real estate agent. Only agents that are affiliated with the National Association of Realtors can call themselves Realtors. Realtors are held to a higher standard. We abide by a Realtor Code of Ethics. They are our standards of practice in the way we treat others and how professional we are. We can be fined, have our license suspended or lose our license by violating any of these.
As licensees, we are required to have 16 hours of continuing education every 2 years. How much education does your agent get beyond that? There are professional designations that give an agent education in a specialized area of real estate. Most professional agents will do more than the required education, read books, or attend conferences that sharpen their real estate tools.
3. How long have you been an agent?
I was once a new agent. I had a wonderful mentor that took me under his wing and taught me how to list a house, how to stage a house, how to sell a house, and how to work with buyers. If I needed anything, at any time, he was there to help. I say this because it’s not necessarily a bad thing if your agent is brand new. They may have a lot more time to devote to you since they may not have as many clients as a seasoned agent. Typically, the longer they have been working as a real estate agent, the more scenarios they have run up against and the better equipped they are at handling them.
4. Are you a full time agent?
In fast paced markets, you need a full time agent. If your agent has another job they are committed to being at during the day, you may not get the service you need or deserve. If you are selling and there is no need for the agent to be available during normal business hours, then you may fine. If you are trying to buy a home in a market that moves quickly, you may miss something if your agent is only available evenings and weekends. They likely have other clients and will need to be spending time with them as well. You also need to be sure they are focusing enough time on real estate to be knowledgeable about the process. Working with a part-time agent is not a death sentence, just be sure you feel comfortable that they can do what is needed to help you.
5. Do you primarily work with Buyers or Sellers?
Some agents specialize in one or the other. Some work with both equally. Either way is fine but if you are selling and your agent only works with Buyers, they may not be the best person for the job and vice versa.
6. Do you work in the area that I am wanting to Buy/Sell?
If your agent doesn’t know the area, you may want to find someone else. They may even be willing to help you find someone who IS familiar. I have often helped clients by interviewing agents in an area that I was not best equipped to help them. My goal is to help my client the best that I possibly can and if I’m not the best person for the job, I will find someone else.
7. How do you get paid? What fees do you charge?
I don’t know a single, general real estate agent that makes a salary. Most do not get paid unless they sell a house whether they are helping the Buyer or the Seller. In that case, you need to know who pays their commission and how much that is. Some agents have additional fees, sometimes called a transaction fee, broker fee, or an admin fee. Be educated before you get to the closing table.
8. Do you network? With whom?
I believe in networking – with everyone! I network with friends and family, at civic organizations, at social events, online, at the grocery store – If I’m there, I’m networking in one way or another. I also network with other agents. Why is this important? I have found that it is a lot easier to do deals for my clients when I am familiar or have a personal relationship with the opposing agent. They can be your best friend or your worst enemy and in a negotiation, you want them to be easy to work with so everyone gets what they want – the house sold. If your agent is just marketing online and looking at properties online and not networking, they are missing a big piece of the market that could be just what you need.
9. How do you market/find properties?
There are all sorts of ways to market and to find properties. Newspaper, websites, email, social media, open houses, flyers, magazines are all options. Some are more effective in different areas or for certain properties. It is important to know how they market or find properties on the front end so you are not disappointed. They may have educated reasons for not marketing or looking for properties in certain ways so be sure to listen and make the decision for yourself.
I’ve come across agents who don’t work on the weekends and therefore, if you call or email, they won’t get back to you until Monday. That is fine if the expectation is set up front and there is someone else to contact. The real estate business doesn’t stop just because we want a day off. Don’t get me wrong, I take days off and spend time with my family – everyone should. Buyers and Sellers just need to know when to expect a response and/or have a team member they can reach out to if their need is urgent. You don’t want to get into a situation where you are trying to sell your house and it won’t sell because other agents that have Buyers can’t reach your agent over the weekend or after 5PM any day of the week.
Images courtesy of phasinphoto, digitalart, ArtJSan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Michelle Froedge is a residential Realtor and Principal Broker in the Greater Nashville and Williamson County areas of Tennessee. “Mom” to four-legged fur babies, Tyler and Livvie, Auntie to Zelamie, she is a vegetarian and sings in her spare time. Michelle has lived in Nashville and Franklin since 1997 and has been selling homes since 2004.